Monday, December 13, 2010

Part 4 - After 12 days of WikiLeaks cables, the world looks on US with new eyes

Reaction across the globe to the leaked US embassy cables has ranged from anger and bitterness to extreme indifference

Pakistani demonstrators burn a US flag in support of WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange during a rally in Multan. Photograph: Mohammad Malik/AFP/Getty Images

Africa



Kenya

It took just a few leaked words to create an outcry from the Kenyan government. In a teaser of what the cables from Nairobi would reveal, Der Spiegel said last week that US officials believed the country was a "swamp of corruption" — hardly a heretic view on the streets of Nairobi. Government spokesman Alfred Mutua immediately called a news conference to say the government was "surprised and shocked".

"If what is reported is true, it is totally malicious, and a total misrepresentation of our country and our leaders," he said.

He went on to say that foreign countries funding youth empowerment schemes in Kenya – a barely veiled reference to the US — were in fact trying to overthrow the government. The US ambassador to Nairobi, Michael Ranneberger, described Mutua's claims as "utterly ridiculous". The prime minister told parliament he welcomed the Wikileaks revelations.

'We now know what some of our friends think about us … it is helpful."

After the revelations on Thursday that the US ambassador believed rampant corruption could lead in renewed violence in the country, Kibaki's office released a statement defending his record.

"We wish to state that President Kibaki's record on reforms through out his career speaks for itself. ," it said.

Uganda

The authorities in Uganda were also riled. In response to claims that President Yoweri Museveni feared his plane being shot down on the orders of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the Ugandan foreign minister Sam Kutesa issued a statement yesterday (Thursday).

"While it is true that we hold discussions with the US government on regional and internationals issues, the contents of the alleged cables are grossly inaccurate and illogical. For example, if the Ugandan president perceived the threat to fly the international airspace, the solution would be for him to stay at home. Other leaders in the world have done so in the past."

But Museveni's spokesman Tamale Mirundi confirmed that other leaked cables referring to the president's concern about Sudan supporting the Lord's Resistance Army rebels a few years ago, and Eritrea being a regional threat, were in fact accurate.

Eritrea

Despite its president being described by US officials as an "unhinged dictator", there was no reaction from Eritrea to the leaked cables. There is also no free press in Eritrea.

Nigeria

Royal Dutch Shell said it was "absolutely untrue" that it had infiltrated every Nigerian ministry affecting its operations there. The company offered no further comment.

Zimbabwe

In an opinion piece in the state-run Herald newspaper, Reason Wafawarova focused on how the cables showed that Mugabe had defied US expectations of his demise from power. He also delighted in description of opposition leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as a "flawed figure".

Asia Pacific

China

China has been tight-lipped. It has also been increasingly keen to stop others from having their say, deleting articles and discussions about the cables. It called the contents of the diplomatic memos "absurd" but has otherwise refused to comment on the information they contain, such as reports of official frustration with North Korea and a source's claim that a senior official was behind the attack on Google.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said yesterday that Beijing hoped the emergence of the cables would not affect relations with Washington.

Censorship has not stopped some people from reading about the cables on overseas websites.

"Reading [about] China and Google, I want to say: WikiLeaks rocks!" one wrote on a microblog service of the popular portal Sina earlier this week.

Another argued: "What Wikileaks says about China must be a slander from the US. What do you think? The US government hates Wikileaks too? It must be a conspiracy."

China Digital Times, which monitors censorship, believes the Central Propaganda Bureau issued an order telling websites not to issue further reports on the cables, although some have reported on Julian Assange's arrest.

Australia

The role of Assange, the country's prodigal son, has generated the most coverage and debate. Referring to him as the 'Ned Kelly of the digital age', Bryce Lowry said: "Assange is a cyber bushranger: a renegade taunter of authority and inspiration to many who marvel at his daring to challenge the status quo." Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the publication of the cables is illegal, and Assange's actions are "grossly irresponsible". She has made it clear the Australian government will offer him no support although the Australian consulate in the UK has offered him access to their services.

The cables themselves reveal an unflattering view of former prime minister – now foreign minister – Kevin Rudd. He was an abrasive, impulsive ''control freak'' who presided over a series of foreign policy blunders. Another cable referenced how Rudd angered the US by detailing a private conversation he had with Bush which included the moment he was "stunned to hear Bush say, 'What's the G20?'"

Rudd retaliated this week. "Mr Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorised release of 250,000 documents from the US diplomatic communications network. "The Americans are responsible for that," he said.

by guardian

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